Art and Fear: an object lesson

A friend of mine sent me this quote from this book, and I thought it was so fabulous I wanted to make sure to share it.

As I’m teaching clowning this semester, this is particularly a propos. A lot of students will ask me if they are getting an exercise right or not, if they are doing it properly. With clowning, as with most forms of artwork, there is no one right answer– there are only better answers. And there are always better answers. Your work could always be better, stronger, more grounded, more focused. The merry-go-round doesn’t stop.

In the arts, there’s much more to be gained from trying something out than to theorize about something.

“The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pounds of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot–albeit a perfect one–to get an “A”.


Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work–and learning from their mistakes–the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.”

-from Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (And Rewards) of Artmaking,
by David Bayles & Ted Orland

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